I saw the tears of the oppressed and they have no comforter, power was on the side of their oppressors.—Ecclesiastes, 4;1.
I read and meditated on what the preacher says in this chapter of the Holy Scriptures on new year day and tears flowed. Mr President, the game so beloved by the Nigerian political elite is going toward what is known in football as injury time. As all soccer fanatics know, it is indeed the most critical moment, distinguished by anxiety and acute uncertainty. Within the twinkling of an eye, anything can go wrong and invariably, things do go wrong. Carefully laid down plans go up in smoke. The players themselves with tired limbs, declining vision and deteriorating coordination look towards the referees for early deliverance since events have conspired to make it impossible to settle for a draw, and a clear winner must emerge; it is this fleeting moment that determines whether the match will end in penalty shoot-out or the phenomenon known as “sudden death”.
This is the moment that has stolen upon us. As the country lurches and staggers from one crisis to another, as one measure is hurriedly abandoned for even more inept solutions, as the rule of law is recklessly abandoned at all levels of government for rule of man, it is clear that we are faced with what is known as an “organic crisis”. Nations are also like human beings and when an affliction becomes terminal, when suffering is unbearably acute, when human misery is so stark and remorseless, it is time to consider the virtues of euthunasia. Looking through the glass, the Niger Delta crisis, herdsmen crisis, the Boko Haram insurgency, the high level of corruption and looting across government’s MDAs, it is glaring that we have in our hands a classic recipe for organic crisis. That is why we must talk. Regardless of the centrifugal forces that may be pulling Mr President in different directions, restructuring of the country is not negotiable. Our history is not our enemy but the way we deal or not with our history could be our enemy. A country that has not really faced its past cannot decide on her future.
Our forefathers spent many years like their counterparts in America deliberating on a people’s constitution that would accommodate Nigeria’s diversity. They came up with the 1960 and ’63 constitutions. The constitutions addressed the derivative principle; the areas which produce the bulk of the nation’s resources have the right to a significant proportion for the revenues collected from the region. Under the 1963 Constitution, the Federal Government was entitled to pay each region a sum equal to 50 per cent of proceeds of mining rents and royalty in respect of minerals derived from each region. The Federal Government was obliged to credit to the Distributable Pool Account (DPA) 30 per cent of the proceeds of the royalty and mining rent received by the Federal Government, after remitting 50 per cent to the producing region. The Federal Government was only entitled to keep for itself only 20 per cent. The 30 per cent in the Distributable Pool Account were shared among the regions based on population, size etc. Each region was assured that she entitled, as of right, to about half of the entire proceeds of its region and also a further part constituting its own share from the Distributable Pool Account, that was the position till 1966 with the advent of the military, the federal structure was dismantled and discarded. The fiscal system was also destroyed. These are the major outcome of military sabotage of the Nigerian federal system.Mr President, l do not belong to the school of thought that the only quality upon which you need to run Nigerian well is good leadership. l believe that far more important than leadership are, solid political and economic structures. In other words, the structure of a house is far more important than the interior decoration. A good house must be able to withstand inclement weather and the rigour of reasonable existence; it must not be constantly under threat of collapse. In a normally functioning federal system where fiscal relations among the federating states are properly established, it should not be, for instance, the responsibility of the Federal Government to make pronouncement on policy issues like salary increase that are bound to disproportionately affect the states. For instance, workers of the old Western Region were paid a minimum daily wage of five shillings, well above what was paid at the federal level and other regions. Governor of New York State of America earns more salary than the almighty american President. Today, it is however ironical that the oil producing states and a highly commercial and industrial state like Lagos appear incapable of paying the level or above of wages being paid to federal employees. This is a manifestation of the distortion in fiscal federalism that needs to be corrected.
Mr President, if only successive military regimes have curbed their penchant for suspending and undermining parts or whole of the constitution that are very necessary for good governance and socioeconomic well being of the citizenry, may be Nigeria would have been saved these unnecessary crises that she presently finds herself. That is why we need a living constitution in order to settle all these anomalies. Thomas Paine, in his ‘Rights of Man’, 1789, which is generally acknowledged as validly stated; “A constitution has to be original act of the people. The people do ordain and establish… does not a mere echo of revolutionary sentiment.” It reflects a confirmation, that America Constitution obtains its entire existent force and efficacy from the people to be governed by it. That is why our constitution does not command the sacred obsession and is being violated with impunity by the government and people, because it is an imposition of military arrangement. Mr President, the World is full of multinational states. Those that practice true federalism with full autonomy to federating units such as France, America or Switzerland, succeeded. Those that have failed, failed because they did not practice true and genuine federalism. They have run multicultural states along unitary lines and they have paid dearly for it.
The Soviet Union was formed in 1919, it disintegrated in 1989 after a span of 70 years. Yugoslavia was formed in 1919, it disintegrated in 1991 after 72 years. A great lesson for us to learn. If after more than 100 years of Nigeria’s creation and more than 50 years as an independent state and she still appears to be an artificial creation or just a geographical expression as stated by the legendary philosopher, Pa Obafemi Awolowo in 1947, that confirms that our leaders are truly not committed to the concept of a just and equitable Nigeria. In a relaxed federation, different states develop at their own pace as it was done during the First Republic. If Josif Tito had done this, there would still have been a Yugoslavia today. I wish you a happy New Year.
Aduwo is Executive Director/CEO Centre for Convention on Democratic Integrity